I am posting this for my wife’s benefit, and others who really like the Amplified Bible. Logos Bible Scholar Mark Ward does a great job in this 13-minute video explaining the pros and cons of using the Amplified Bible. It is sort of like having a Bible with brief commentary embedded right in the text, which can be both a good thing … and a bad thing.
The following might come across as disparaging, but it is often quoted because there is some truth to it: “[The] Amplified [Bible is] for folks who have no idea what translation is but know that if you try enough words one of them will hit pay dirt.” I personally prefer to have a good study Bible instead, so that I do not get confused as to what is the text and what is the commentary.
The video is based on a blog article Mark wrote a few years ago. His book on the King James Version is incredibly insightful. You can check him out at his web site, ByFaithWeUnderstand.com.
April 20th, 2021 at 10:56 am
Is the Amplified Bible “Guilty” of Illegitimate Totality Transfer?
I have been compiling information about illegitimate totality transfer, specifically concerning its occurrence the Amplified Bible. DA Carson’s book Exegetical Fallacies was the first work I found on the subject, and since then I have collected more than two dozen published and self-published descriptions of illegitimate totality transfer and many of them mention the Amplified Bible in their discussion. Leaving no stone unturned, I looked up books, blogs, podcasts, Youtube videos, you name it. However, after amassing more than 100 pages on the topic, I am still left wondering what exactly the problem is in the Amplified Bible.
My analysis of Dr. Mark Ward’s video is on pages 99-105:
Click to access context-is-for-kings.pdf
I hope that you wouldn’t mind taking a look at the work I have done so far, recommending any more leads and perhaps share any additional insight you may have.
April 20th, 2021 at 10:20 pm
You have done a whole lot of work sifting through this idea of “illegitimate totality transfer,” and its relationship to the Amplified Bible.
I am no professionally trained linguist, nor am I a Bible translator. I will just have to take your word for much of what you have written. But I have led many Bible studies where readers do some pretty goofy things with the Scriptural text, and many times the Amplified Bible, more than other Bible translations, encourages these type of bad habits.
The critique of the Amplified Bible is actually pretty simple, in that I have seen how some people go about using the Amplified Bible, and it is not always that helpful. It is not so much that the Amplified Bible is a “bad” translation. There is actually of lot good things about it. The bigger issue is that it offers a cafeteria approach to assigning meaning to words in Scripture. If there is a meaning of a word that you do not like, the Amplified Bible will often give you a bunch of choices to chose from, and I have watched people in a Bible study simply pick their favorite alternative reading of a particular word or phrase in a verse, that completely distorts the original intended meaning of the author.
The task of Bible interpretation is to try to discern the intention of the original author, as the key to understanding a particular text, placed within its historical context. If I consider a “bark” to be something that a dog does, or something that a tree has, the only way I will know will depend on the context.
But if I simply want to use a text to assign whatever meaning strikes my fancy, then that might help us feel more spiritual, but it does very little to help us grasp what the original author had in mind.
Sometimes the Amplified Bible provides very sound choices, when the meaning is not entirely clear. But sometimes, the Amplified Bible just confuses the reader. It just is more helpful to take several Bible translations, that have slightly different translation philosophies associated with them, as a guide to help us figure out what is the most accurate meaning of a text that is faithful to what the original author had in mind. It just is not worth my time to go about criticizing the Amplified Bible, when there are so much better Bible translations available that are more helpful in understanding the teaching of Scripture.
Dan Wallace is most helpful here:
April 21st, 2021 at 11:07 am
Thank you for your reply. Your response echoes a number of overarching points I have encountered since beginning this project, so I am hoping this will give me an opportunity to summarize them.
Thanks for the Dan Wallace recommendation. His definition for illegitimate totality transfer (from the link you provided) is already cited on page 66 of “Context is for Kings.”
“The bigger issue is that it offers a cafeteria approach to assigning meaning to words in Scripture… I have watched people in a Bible study simply pick their favorite alternative reading of a particular word or phrase in a verse, that completely distorts the original intended meaning of the author.”
Could you provide a chapter-and-verse example of this occurring in the Amplified Bible, specifically where the original intended meaning of the author is distorted? (This would make my day!) I mention “bark” on page 93, after having listed several other homonyms people try to use to dismiss synonym amplification. Can you cite a bark-like example actually occurring in the Amplified Bible?
“It just is more helpful to take several Bible translations, that have slightly different translation philosophies associated with them, as a guide to help us figure out what is the most accurate meaning of a text that is faithful to what the original author had in mind.”
This was actually the methodology I used for this entire project. I used all the “so much better Bible translations available” that critics prefer and compared those translations with the Amplified Bible. This is most prominent in the Parallel Translations section, but I continued to use this method of comparison for the rest of the paper, which ends with pointing out that following this very method (i.e., comparing two or more translations) is actually a way to confirm its amplifications! I had recommended pages 99-105 to you (my analysis of Dr. Mark Ward’s critique of the Amplified Bible), which ends with this very point, that the Amplified Bible’s translation of Psalm 32:4 is none other than a totality of what the CEB, NASB, NIV, and KJV are doing individually.
As a non-Christian, I am interested in studying the idea of illegitimate totality transfer because “lexical fallacies by linguists” can be committed not just by those doing Biblical exegesis. I happen to use the concept of language amplification—which I learned from the Amplified Bible—in a non-Christian setting. So, I’m not actually interested in which Bible is a better translation—I don’t have a dog in that fight—but in the concept of amplification itself.
Again, thank you for your time…
February 14th, 2023 at 1:52 pm
I find the Amplified Bible to be a very useful tool, to understanding the Hebrew Greek aromatic words within the Bible. Also find the new King James Version very accurate to the Hebrew and Greek and of course is my opinion God bless.